How To Help

To contribute to the Ranken Jordan junior golf program or to ask any questions please e-mail me at This blog is not affiliated with Ranken Jordan. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and not those of Ranken Jordan. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Marathon for the Kids

A few days ago I completed my third marathon.  No, it was not a 26.2 mile run (that will happen in January).  Instead it was the third annual Gateway PGA Golf Day 100 hole marathon.  With this event, Gateway PGA Professionals play 100 holes of golf in one day while raising money to support local charities.  From the inception of this event it has been one of my favorites and the one event I make certain to play each year.  This year my pace of play was a bit slow as it took me about 6 1/2 hours to finish all 100 holes!  Regardless of how fast or slow I played, this is a wonderful event and one I always look forward to.  Each of the charities that benefit from the efforts of our section's PGA Professionals are special to all of us for a variety of reasons.  We tend to connect with one or two of them and make it a point to raise as much money as possible to help some of our favorite charities.

Shortly after the completion of this year's event on August 15, the funds raised will be distributed to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, Hospice of Southern Illinois, Gateway PGA Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Quincy Area Golf in Schools, and Kids Harbor Child Advocacy Center.  A relatively small group of PGA Professionals participating in one golf event will positively impact thousands of lives throughout large portions of Missouri and Illinois.  I am very proud to be a part of an event that creates such a tremendous amount of good for so many simply by hitting a golf ball a few times.  Want to see how PGA Professionals are improving lives through our game?  Talk to Gideon Smith, PGA, in Quincy, IL, about the number of kids he has introduced to golf through his in school program.  Or contact Paul Leahy, PGA, about the junior golf program at the Lake of the Ozarks.  Maybe you are like me and have had a family member spend the final few days of their life in hospice care.  Simply put, golf is doing great things for thousands of people in the Gateway PGA Section and this event is a big part of why that is possible.

There is one other way that I experience the impact this event has.  Through my involvement at Ranken Jordan I get to be a part of the golf program there and teach some amazing kids how to play golf regardless of the complex medical issue they are fighting.  I mentioned that one of the charities supported by PGA Golf Day is the Gateway PGA Foundation.  Through the generosity of the Foundation, the golf program at Ranken Jordan has not cost the hospital a cent.  All of the equipment has been donated by the Foundation and 100% of the PGA Professionals' time is on a volunteer basis.  This is something I am very, very proud to be able to say.  The golf program at Ranken Jordan is improving the lives of the kids, helping them heal faster, and through PGA Golf Day, we are also donating money each year to the hospital.  There is still time to donate by clicking HERE.

Playing 100 holes of golf in one day may sound like a very daunting task to some.  However I can tell you from experience that it is not as tough as you may think.  Yes I got fatigued while playing and yes I was a bit sore the next day.  Each year the fatigue and soreness is there and as I get older I am sure it will only get worse.  But each year I will proudly be a part of PGA Golf Day as we raise money for all of the great charities.  Why is this?  Because it is a very simple way for me to give back to those who made my mother's final few days as comfortable as possible and it also provides an incredible hospital with a small donation to help very special kids get their lives back.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Constant Inspiration

Golf tournaments are one of the best ways for charitable organizations to raise a significant amount of money in a relatively short period of time.  This has been true for many years and it will be true for many more.  As a PGA Professional I, just like many thousands of my peers, have the opportunity every year to host dozens of these events at our respective golf courses.  We see the hard work that the committees put into organizing a great event and do our part to make sure that the tournament is a success.

Last Monday was the 2014 Ranken Jordan golf tournament and I had the privilege of playing in the event for the third straight year.  Just as with last year's event, I had the good fortune to be part of a group that featured Ranken Jordan's CEO Lauri Tanner and former Ranken Jordan patient Sam Ward.  Each year Sam comes back to play in the tournament and each year everybody is amazed at his golf game.  Well struck drives seemed to always find the short grass and his iron shots regularly gave us a good look at birdie.  I can say with great certainty that our group was very excited that he putts as well as he does!  Golf has played a very significant role in Sam's life (learn more about Sam's story by clicking HERE to watch a short video) just as it has with another former patient, Cooper Burks, who was in the spotlight at this year's tournament.

Cooper came to Ranken Jordan for the first time in 2012.  A self-proclaimed sports nut, when he came to Ranken Jordan for therapy following one of his 17 hip surgeries, Cooper was bummed because he did not think he would be able to play sports.  Of course, when he got there he did not know about the junior golf program.  After his first day of golf Cooper was hooked!  Swinging from his wheelchair Cooper quickly showed that he was a natural!  Swing after swing led to crisp iron shots and launched drivers.  Cooper and his family quickly learned that golf was going to be his sport.

Since that initial introduction to golf Cooper's love for the sport has continued to grow.  While at Ranken Jordan we had him hitting golf balls from his hospital bed, wheelchair, using his walker, and without any aid at all.  After walking out of Ranken Jordan last December and returning home, he kept working on his game and showed off his swing on the driving range before last Monday's tournament.  Everyone who watched Cooper practice was simply amazed by how consistently he hit the ball . . . and by the fact that his ever present smile never left his face.  Ranken Jordan put together a video about Cooper which I highly encourage you to watch by clicking HERE.

Spend any time at all with Cooper and you will quickly realize that his smile never goes away.  You will also learn that he loves sports, Auburn University, and Duck Dynasty.  His incredible attitude and outlook on life make you forget that he is 10 years old.  He comes by it honestly, though.  Anyone who has the opportunity to spend time with his parents and siblings will understand what a special family Cooper is part of.

Stories like this are why I go to Ranken Jordan every week and why I treasure the time I am so fortunate to spend there with the kids.  Having the opportunity to share a game I love with the kids at Ranken Jordan and use it in a way to positively impact their lives is simply incredible.  Most of the time they think that I am teaching them something when in reality they are the ones doling out the lessons to me.  On multiple occasions, during conversations, via e-mail, or in text messages, Cooper and his family have told me "thank you" for what I have done for them.  In fact I should be the one thanking them for allowing me to be a part of his journey.  Cooper is a never-ending source of inspiration and someday, when I finally grow up, I hope to be just like him.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Get Up, Stand Up

This morning before leaving to go to Ranken Jordan for our weekly golf clinic I wrote a Tweet that said, "Every week this is my favorite day to play golf . . . Golf Day at Ranken Jordan with the kids!"  Little did I know at the time just how true that statement would be this week.  Without a doubt, each week the highlight for me is getting to spend time with the kids, teach them a few things about golf, and put a smile on their faces.  Just like at any golf course we have our regulars who refuse to miss golf and we almost always have a new kid or two.  This week was no exception as we welcomed a new girl who had never touched a golf club in her life.  That was about to change.

As we were gathering outside on an atypically cool summer day in St. Louis, one of the therapists brought out a young lady who had been recently admitted to Ranken Jordan.  She is in the early stages of her rehabilitation so she came to golf in her wheelchair.  While I talked to her I learned that she had never picked up a golf club nor had she ever given any thought to learning how to play golf.  While she watched three of the boys, two in wheelchairs and one standing, rip driver after driver she decided she would like to try.  I got the right length club for her, grabbed some golf balls, and we set to work teaching her the basics of swinging from her wheelchair.

There was some initial hesitation and after a few tentative swings she asked me for more help in hitting those first few shots.  We did hand-over-hand for a few to let her really get the feel of making a golf swing.  A few solid shots was all it took for a smile to cover her face.  I stepped back and let her start hitting by herself and away she went!  However, after only a few more swings she stopped and dropped her golf club on the ground.  I thought something may be wrong until she looked up at me and said, "I want to stand up and hit golf balls!"

We got the OK from one of the therapists and very soon there was a walker there for her to use for balance while she hit.  A couple of swings in the walker was all it took for her to realize she didn't need or want it, either!  We moved it out of the way, adjusted her grip just slightly, and the next thing you know ball after ball was being hit high, straight, and far!  The more golf balls she hit the bigger her smile became.  She even looked at me at one point and said she was glad she came out to learn how to play golf!  I am sure we will see her back next week and am quite certain the therapists will be getting the golf clubs out for her before then.

For many of the kids at Ranken Jordan, golf has become an important part of their weekly activities and lives.  It gives them something to look forward to each week.  The game has also been implemented into the rehab program for many of the kids.  While they are playing they are healing at the same time.  Seeing the role the golf program plays in the physical and mental improvements in the kids is a big part of why I go to the hospital at least once every week.  And then when something like this happens, let's just say you couldn't keep me away from there!